By CHRIS GORDON
Rugby began in Goulburn, NSW in 1872 - on Monday July 22nd 1872 to be precise, when a meeting was held at Payten's Commercial Hotel in Goulburn to form the Goulburn Rugby Club. The driving force behind the club's formation was Valentine Blomfield Riley, a Bowral born former Sydney University player and captain who had moved to Goulburn in 1872 to open a surveying company with his father. It was Riley who called the meeting to found the club, took on the position of secretary and then spread the gospel of rugby throughout the Southern Tablelands and Monaro regions.
Goulburn was the first country rugby club to be founded in Australia and remains the oldest country club in Australia to this day. In 1874 it joined Australia's original rugby body, the Southern Rugby Union, and teams from the various Sydney clubs frequently travelled to Goulburn to play or welcomed Goulburn as visitors to play them. In 1882, fleet-footed Goulburn winger Stuart H Belcher became the first ever country based player to play in the NSW side. His first match was against Queensland and he celebrated his selection with a try.
By 1893 Goulburn was itself a complete branch of the NSW Rugby Union (as the Southern Rugby Union had been known since 1892) and hosted a strong rugby competition of its own. In 1900, the Goulburn respresentative team, known as Central Southern Rugby Union, played the reigning Sydney premiers, the Glebe Dirty Reds and beat them by 26-6. While Goulburn pre-dates the Glebe club (later the Drummoyne Rugby Club), Goulburn would later adopt the Dirty Reds title as their own due to the maroon jumper they have worn since 1959.
In 1914 a rugby league exhibition match between Annandale and Western Suburbs was played in Goulburn and such was the interest that league clubs were set to form almost instantly. The issue was deemed so important that a town meeting was called with the mayor suggesting that the town could only support one of the rugby codes and should put all of its resources behind that code. Rugby league won although the first world war was to deprive Goulburn of both codes.
Rugby Union restarted in the 20s and 30s with limited success and again in 1952. In 1953 there was again a Goulburn based competition but midway through 1954 it folded again.
In 1957, the Goulburn Rugby Union Football Club was officially reformed. It played with first one side, then in 1959 two sides and in 1967 consisted of three grades. From 1957 until 1973 Goulburn played in the ACT competition. From 1974 until 1978 it competed in the now defunct Southern Tablelands Rugby competition, which was for the latter part of that period headquartered in Goulburn. From 1979 until 1982 Goulburn played in the Illawarra competition, before returning to the ACT from 1983 to 1985. In 1986 it was back to the Illawarra where Goulburn stayed until 1989, before finally moving to its current home, the Monaro Rugby competition.